Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Academia vs Real Life

Who's your daddy? Moi and my wife. I was the last of 691 students on the night to graduate. The last. I waited 2 and a half hours to collect my degree. Last. Like, totally, 690 people before me. As I went up to collect they started to switch off the lights (just kidding about the last bit).

I have mentioned on and off during the last two years, especially when speaking about stock photography, that I'm finishing up my B.Tech degree in Photography at www.cput.ac.za , after getting the diploma in '99. It took 10 years to take the step to do the extra part-time years to get degree, but finally I did.

I'll pop a couple of the images from my final portfolio in here as we go along. All the images are availabe from me directly at www.nelimages.com or through any of the microstock portals you see on the side here.

My take on the practical? Part of my research was tracking the performance of my own images. How can they fail me if the images are selling commercially? I felt that was a rather fail-safe approach to practical work! I totally shied away from making the "pretty" portfolio, but rather focused on showing a profitable portfolio. Not something that students, or lecturers, except in this case mine, can appreciate. When one is a student, you're bright-eyed and naive about commercial art. We forget that commercial means "to please others enough to give you cash". Most artists find that completely horrible, but me on the other hand, I'm naturally rather fond of seeing people happy around me, and if they're willing to pay me for my personality trait, so be it. I shoot the artsy stuff for myself.

Thoughts on studying and running your own business at the same time?

- Do not kid yourself and think because you work for yourself, you'll suddenly have the ability to study during work-hours. Your clients thinks otherwise. In the two years of study, I was able to study at work once. Another couple of times I was able to push in a couple of hours at a coffee shop, with Philip still working for me, before hitting the studio. Most of the time, after ten at night while the family was sleeping. Much like I'm doing now.
- No amount of book knowledge can make up for the hard-graft knowledge you get by working and earning.
- Don't complain about studying, you wanted it, so finish it. You don't complain about having work, do you? Do you?!
- The internet is a vast source of unverified, spit-balled, contradictory and questionable research material. Wikipedia, especially, is suspect at best. But good for general knowledge. Not submissable as a reference in a bachelors degree course anyways.
- Your lecturer might not understand what your thesis is about, since you've worked in the market much longer than they have. As long as they're enthusiastic and supportive, though, and can read objectively, it's invaluable. Irvine helped me get this one through the ravine. He is not an art-director. Took me time to get used to this again.
- Academia is terribly self-indulgent and idealistic. Commercial photography is about pleasing others.
- Earning a degree will make no difference to what you're earning if you're self-employed. Kinda obvious, that, but I get asked the question quite a bit. I completed it as it was on my bucket-list, basically. Also it gave me and excuse and the tools to research the impact of microstock imagery of commercial photography, and left my wide-eyed in what has happened since the launch of istockphoto in 2001. So in a way, earning this degree has made me aware of the fact that I might be earning less one day. (Unless I get infront of the wave.)

I feel young, but on campus a 32 year-old is old. I got called 'oom' (uncle) by 3 young guys in a 4x4 at the McDonald's today. I wanted to protest, till it dawned on me that I'm probably 14 years older than they are. These were my class-mates basically.



RudolfJ said...

It's funny how we...uhm, "people", question wikipedia, but trust something like 30year old encyclopedia books.

I think it's funny.*

*disclaimer: I'm kind of a tech enthusiast. ;)

RudolfJ said...

Why do "we" trust a 30 year old encyclopedia book more than Wikipedia?

I think it's funny.

Danie Nel said...

Various reasons:

Academic publications have verifiable peer review structures in place, citations are in turn citable and verified. Wikipedia, in theory, is awesome, but relies heavily on the integrity, humility, honesty and protocol management of millions of individuals, without the means to enforce it. Wiki is a great record of the evolution of knowledge, but not sufficient for research.

BtW - who said anything about 30 year old encyclopedias? It would be completely useless in my studies, that was based on atopic that's 10 years old. At least they don't contradict itself on basic arguments. In the same articles. With bogus citations.

I had to do a lot of my research from unverified blogs too, but luckily I could cross-reference to online published material.

Yoy could never just trust what you read in a book, these days it's even harder online, because there is a million times more information and authors.

RudolfJ said...

No one said nothing about anything, I was just talking in general. ;)

PS. I agree, people write a lot of nonsense nowadays.

Danie Nel said...

Nah, I realize, I just had to get that out there. But as I said, as to general knowledge, unbeatable.